XBOX 360 – Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising Review

HALF out of FIVE stars. Where 5 is good and 1 is “managed to get all the textures right”.

Actually this game would deserve a 2.5 star rating except that the developers have conducted themselves in a completely reprehesible way.

What we were promised: Accurate damage models, simulations of vehicles, simulations of weapons, killer AI and realistic warfare.

What we got: A steaming turd. To aggrevate things, developers wanted to charge for the patch.

The game works well enough as a game until you get good at it and can start pushing it’s boundaries. By that I mean you get good enough at maneuvering that you’re not in fear of doing the wrong thing while orders are coming in over the radio, which often tell you to do something completely different. Case in point, there’s a mission which asks you to storm a beach. Mid storming, you’re told to sweep up the side and eliminate anti-tank teams.

Now this would be all fine and dandy, but one of the games problems is missing sound queues. There’s times where, unless you have captioning turned on, you don’t get the audio for the radio calls and you wouldn’t know you were being given instructions. To add insult to injury, if you storm the antitank crew (or the mortar crew later in the mission) because you discover them before you’re supposed to, the AI isn’t initalized and the opfor will blindly stand around until you kill them all. Kill them you will, they won’t even react when you’re knifing the guy next to them. To really make this aggrevating, the game also scripts Things That Kill You. Getting into a vehicle on a map where there’s an enemy chopper results in instant death – even if you already shot down the chopper.

This really comes to a head later when, during the night raid mission, you’re told you must not be discovered and hold out until the marines execute their distraction. Given the amount of freedom you have in maneuvering and the fact if you go low and slow like you do in Ghost Recon you can avoid discovery indefinitely, I waited a half hour for the marines to distract. Only later did I manage to sneak down to the base and found out the walls of all the buildings were simply props – the player was never intended to enter the base and the walls of the builds would let you (and bullets) pass straight through. Sloppy coding, and more on the point I had to go online and pirate the strategy guide to find out you’re supposed to be discovered. Were I playing it on the hardest difficulty which only shows you your final waypoint, I could have easilly infiltrated the base without being discovered and really been bewildered. As it stood on normal difficulty, one of the waypoints did take you through an enemy bunker which I had opted to simply skirt.

The manual is crap. There’s not a whole lot to say about it except it has a picture of the controller in vehicle context, infantry context, and airborn context in three languages. It doesn’t tell you anything about the weapons. I’m a gun nut and I hadn’t even heard of most of the weapons since you’re playing as SAS or another foreign military for some of the missions. Pirate the game guide since it’s clear they intended you would buy the guide and read that in leiu of the manual. That being said, the vehicle controls are for naught. Unless you’re on a paved road, vehicles which should reasonably be able to drive off road (tanks) get stuck on rocks, bushes, low walls, stumps and other crap. Hitting someone with a car at 60mph is an excersize in hit detection – sometimes you kill them and sometimes they pass clean through. It’s not uncommon to have jeeps, APCs, hummers and similar with their noses pointed at the sky over a rock.

I haven’t said a whole lot about the pros, and frankly I’m hard pressed to come up with any. Sniping works realistically, and all weapons have bullet drop. The zeros aren’t published but I’m thinking they used 100 yards since shooting MPBR causes hits too low. Guns jam realistically, if you’re reloading when you’re laying down or have dirt being kicked up – it’ll jam. The AI does a decent job of keeping itself alive even if it doesn’t always follow your orders. And, it’s awe inspiring to call down artillery strikes on towns. The problem with all this is multiplayer. With only 8 players maximum in an area 230sqkm, they opted to chop the theater of operation down. This is OK, but it’s still too large. What it turns into is “Who can get to the chopper” (and use missiles unopposed since the AA vechicle gets stuck on everything) or “who is a sniper”. One of the outstanding bugs is that the cover draw distance is calculated from you. Zoom in on a player on a hill opposite you and he might see himself in a bush, but there’s no bush drawn making for an easy shot. It’s even easier with guided missiles from the aircraft since they have no cover and you don’t have to aim.

Then there’s also the incredibly frustrating problem that using the medic kit causes the medic to get stuck or fall through the map. There’s several places where this happens when you spawn, but it’s really frustrating when you’re the medic and performing your job causes you to die. Enough said.

So when’s the patch come out? Well, the game only ships with three maps for deathmatch, and the only game modes are single deathmatch (each player gets a squad) and single DM (8 players individually). These numbers are both abysmally small. You can get unlock codes for four more maps, brining the total up to 7. Unlike Gears or Ghost Recon where game modes make up for lack of maps, there’s only two, essencially identical game modes. Code Masters opted to release a network patch so you don’t get dropped from games all the time (sometimes that costs you all your points and achievements), but they said the rest of the fixes would come out with the mappack.

You have to pay money for the mappack, thus you have to pay money for the patch.

I don’t really know what codemasters was thinking – anyone who buys the game used won’t get the maps, and there’s plenty of people who are going to be buying this turd used. Maybe they get a kickback from gamestop. I’m trading it in while I can still get $25 for it and buying Modern Warfare 2. Maybe when Battlefield Bad Company 2 comes out (what is with these terrible titles?) we’ll have a half decent total war game.

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